Movie 'Exorcist' Got It Right, Say Priests Who Cast Out Demons

The 1973 film, re-released in 2000, is called an accurate portrayal of actual Satanic possession

Excerpted from the National Catholic Reporter with permission.



Despite Hollywood's reputation for sensationalism, some practitioners say the 1973 film

"The Exorcist"

--scheduled for re-release September 22--is fairly close to the mark. The film, which was a huge box office success, is largely responsible for shaping most Americans' notion of demonic possession.

Father Rufus Perea, an exorcist from Bombay, India, says that if anything, "The Exorcist" pulled some punches. "Based on what I've seen, the movie is tame," Fr. Perea said. Father Gabriele Amorth, Rome's chief exorcist, said that while he typically dislikes Hollywood treatments of the demonic, this film is something of an exception.

To "Exorcist" buffs, it's no surprise that the movie rings true. The novel on which the film was based drew on a real series of exorcisms that occurred in 1949; details can be found in the 1993 book "Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism" (Doubleday). That book incorporates material from a diary kept by one of the exorcists during the procedure.

The case centered on a 13-year-old boy living in Mount Rainer, Md., a suburb of Washington, who shared his aunt's affinity for playing with a Ouija board. The board is believed by some to put the living in contact with the spirit world.

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After the aunt died on January 26, the boy's family began to hear scratching noises in the walls and in the mattress in the boy's room. Objects began to fly around the house, observers said, and the boy would lapse into long blackouts. One night, he sat in a chair that, according to family members, began to levitate.

Two Jesuit priests examined the boy and, after careful consideration, decided to perform an exorcism. After five nights, the procedure was called to a halt when the boy pried loose a spring from his bed and sliced one of the priests' arms open.

Stories in the local press attracted the attention of Georgetown University student William Peter Blatty, who later wrote the novel "The Exorcist" based on his research into the case.

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